This column was originally published on RealMoney on May 16 at 10:55 a.m. EDT. It's being republished as a bonus for TheStreet.com readers.
Skype stops charging for outside calls. MySpace.com is free, except for Jack Bauer (which was great last night), but not worth paying $1.99 for, when you can get the boxed set soon for cheaper and watch it on a big screen.
are counting on these two properties to become big. I like their attitude -- at least they are thinking like Netizens, going from free now to paid later. But will they be able to? Can you really start putting ads in Skype? Can't young people just set up another MySpace.com? Are either
The stock of News Corp. is saying yes. It has stopped going down at least. (So has
, but I believe that's because Bob Iger is a better manager than Michael Eisner and because they have Pixar/Lassiter, which is the
most important thing to happen to Disney since the
The stock of eBay is saying no. We know that eBay has been losing some big-time customers. (Bear Stearns does great work on this stuff if you care.) But I believe the market is also saying that Skype will forever be free, and is therefore a real turkey.
I know it is illogical to think that if you have a community of 100 million users you can't charge them something at some point. And if you are News Corp., it's illogical to think that the 30 million people -- it is probably much more now, and I don't even know it -- who use MySpace.com can't be conned into buying something.
But that's what you have to do, I believe; you have to con. There was no conning with Google or Yahoo!. You either look at the ads or you don't. Given the use of the ads to the content, there's some terrific synergy and sales. What's the use of the content in MySpace to the users, who don't have much money anyway? What can Skype do, suggest who to call? Perhaps.
I just believe that, in the end, the mind of the customer matters. I believe people go to Google or Yahoo! often with a predilection to purchase. They want to buy something. I see that with eBay, but less and less of late. I don't see it with Skype or with MySpace. Yet, if I were eBay or News Corp., I would think it would be worth it to risk it, kind of like vacant land somewhere adjacent to a metropolis. Won't it have to go up in value some day?
Right now the market says that Skype's land is worthless. It wants to believe that someone will build on MySpace.
To me, the market's judgment is right. eBay breaks $30 and then hangs out. News Corp. powers upward, running through $20, perhaps to $22.
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